More threads by Linda Buquet

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-8614" src="" alt="pigeonmask" width="65%" />​

For anyone that wants to learn more about the "Pigeon" update.

Mike Blumenthal just did a great Hangout on Stone Temple's 'Digital Marketing Excellence Show' Thursday.
"Professor Maps" shared the latest info and in-depth insights about what we know and don't yet know about the changes "Pigeon" is making to Local Search as we know it.

Unmasking the Pigeon Update: Understanding and Dealing With the Impact

<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Eric Enge did a great job of interviewing as always and Mike shared everything he's figured out about this update so far and admits there is still a lot we don't know and this thing is still in flux.

What do you think about Mike's insights or about the "Pigeon Update" in general???

Is it for the birds or is it working in your favor???

PS I had fun finding and making that image. :p
<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="Professor Maps shares the latest info about the Pigeon update">
<meta property="og:image" content="">
Since I'm totally obsessed with Pigeons lately and since we are building a great repository of Pigeon posts,
I created a <a href="">#pigeon hashtag</a> so you can find everything that's pigeon related all in one place.

Do I win the award for saying Pigeon the most times in one sentence???
Here are mine - done in a little bit of a hurry so open to edits / additions :)
Also please note - this is written possibly at a consultant level - assumptions are made about language. If you're not sure what I mean, please ask. Not intending to confuse.

Increase in use of ?near me? or ?nearby? largely due to massive increase in mobile search

Radius of results has become highly dynamic on mobile, as small as 2 miles/less, on desktop tends to be larger. mobile location tracking is more precise than what?s possible with desktop. this is done with the assumption you?re in your car looking for something now.

Traditional local ranking factors

  • 1st generation - branded name search, branded links, back links, reviews, name mentions and highly noted local site links gave higher score. Focus was brand and location, not so much keywords and concepts.
  • 2010-2012 - first generation dialled back a little bit, with more emphasis on organic seo. So top 3 usu ranked with organic SEO in the factors, 4-7 often pure local (1st generation)

Ambiguity is a huge challenge in local. e.g. searcher types ?restaurant? Do they want best restaurant, closest restaurant, most prominent restaurant? In the past, Google would level prominence and proximity and deliver both, with the mix of traditional web aspects. summarised as ?query deserves diversity?

Closest is relevant - your location (as a searcher) and centroid. On desktop, G getting better at detecting your location, but it?s still fuzzy. On mobile, location is very tight. This can have significant impact on businesses? findability.

If searcher using geolocator outside of their location, centroid becomes the centre of the industry.

Geo queries are declining by users (perhaps because G is getting better at detecting? -ed), which presents challenges for consultants and businesses. For an example, look at G trends for terms ?near me?, vs restaurant ?geolocator?

Data consistency with Places listing and citations - huge fundamental issue. G buys lists, scrape lists, pull data from hundreds of websites and clusters info. Some data interpretation possible with algo. If can?t resolve, they may crate second listing or may not get ?credit? for citations you have.

List your business open hrs, phone and address must be real. ?truthiness?

Prior to pigeon, SAB?s was using where you put your service area as the point of reference. Now are seeing some evidence G is using your location as the point of reference - this is not an exhaustive observation.

Pigeon summarised

  • what we don?t know yet is huge.
  • what is clear is reduction of social and visual ?distractions? on the search results which pull searcher . Much of this started gradually months ago, but today - Eg authorship photos disappearing, and now only G+ photos show, video snippets disappearing and now only YT show video snippets, reduced display of review snippets stars - now show only 2 on a page, reduced frequency of pin results. No underline in local pack results. Pin colour change from red to grey. Cleans the design. This helps keep people to the top of the page.
  • Desktop searches have possibly peaked and have declined over the lat 3 months. SPECULATION G is maximising their ad income on desktops as they move to a totally mobile driven environment.
Search also in context of hummingbird being more driven by verbal commands - e.g. ?restaurant nearby? is more a verbal expression of search than what would be typed.

What we know for sure

  • reduction of 7 packs on desktop and standard searches on mobile.
  • don?t know if there?s been a reduction of packs overall.
  • increase in number of 3 packs
  • increase in one packs
  • reduction of duplicated results - e.g. organic and local pack
  • radii generally smaller
  • proliferation of pigeon poo - e.g. directory sites getting in to local pack, spam techniques recurring (that will likely be fixed)

What we don?t know

  • Don?t know why lower listings in the pack are there. there may be an influence of clicks on links (more clicks stays in pack, no clicks, it goes).
  • Looks like they?re testing quality of local pinned results in a local context. Eg name of a drink could be name of a restaurant in an area. That might trigger a pack differently depending on where you are.
  • Significant shifting still happening, just not as frequently as when first released.

Mobile optimisation is likely to start dictating the UI, not desktop. Pigeon possibly that expressed in the local environment.

The ?testing? of pigeon on such a large scale could indicate a sense of urgency, and could also indicate the bringing of local into the hummingbird era. Could be trying to bring local and organic search algos?

Driving directions usage could be an influence on ranking and radius as well.

  • Most confusing thing - primary ranking attributes when not using web prominence as the signal (sep 2-7th places in pack). Top one seems to be web prominence
  • Don?t know what happened with penguin with mobiles
  • Don?t know/never have - how they calculate the radius. Are there things businesses can do? Don?t know if past techniques will still work.
  • And of course, we don?t know what we don?t know.

What does work - good content, good semantically done website, accurate nap, consistent review process. We assume quality is still important in all these. Real-world marketing signals are what G is going to be looking for, always has just may be dialled up more. Mentions by quality sites will still be valuable.

Quit trying game it and start marketing your business!

Schema is not a ranking signal, more a clarity signal. Good for single location, essentially for multi-location, authorship important

GMB is the merger of places and plus. Has attempted to simplify interface, a portal concept. Know G doesn?t use anything there for ranking data.
Are there any cliff notes? ;)

Cliff note #1: There is still a lot that we don't know.

Cliff note #2: Mike had a conversation with Bill Slawski about a new Google patent that has surfaced recently. It had to do with CTR in maps, and that if map pack results don't get clicked, they might drop out. Speculation at this point, this could all be a huge test, we don't know.

Cliff note #3: Be remarkable. Focus on building a great business, ask for feedback, make sure your site is user friendly, write great content, make sure your NAP is consistent.
Thanks Blake, that boiled it down nicely.

Here are the time stamps for the show:

0:20- Introducing Mike Blumenthal
2:30- Brief Overview of the local search ecosystem
5:40- Reasons for tighter radius with search on mobile
7:35- Traditional ranking factors for local search
11:58- Idea of Query Deserves Diversity (Including Web Prominence, Location Prominence, and Business Prominence)
14:16- Google transitioning from using location as the center of similar businesses to actual location of business
16:45- What happens if the name of a city is used in a query, but you are located in a different city?
18:30- Google clusters all similar information (Consistency of Name, Address, Phone Number data is imperative!)
20:53- With location targeting becoming so accurate, how does that impact business visibility for service areas rather than the specific location of a business?
22:30- What we KNOW about Pigeon
27:27- What we DON'T know about Pigeon and the idea of user testing results
29:41- Reduction of visual distractions leads to a better experience on mobile search
32:36- Google training its algorithm on a very large scale
35:14- Too many bad local search results
36:43- Signals of determining prominence withing local search, driving directions beginning to play a large role
40:32- Diving deeper into what we don't know about Pigeon, (Hint:Ranking factors are a big mystery!)
45:15- Focus on business quality, not reviews!
45:55- Isn't local search a part of semantic search?
47:10- Does it matter to have a "complete" page in local search like it does for search on the desktop?
48:42- Does schema play a role in local search?
49:53- What is web prominence?
50:28- Will geo-tags help your presence in local search?
51:55- How does Google My Business play into all of this?
54:30- Closing advice from Mike Blumenthal
56:10- There's a great deal of uncertainty with local search!
57:26- Reiterating the importance of consistency with Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) data throughout the web
You guys nailed the CliffsNotes. But the whole hour is worth a watch, IMHO. (It's rare I say that.)

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